IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


6th October, 2023 Health

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Picture Courtesy: www.healthline.com

Context: The research from the University of Birmingham has found a strong connection between non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and personality disorders.

Key points from the Study

  • Prevalence of Personality Disorders: NAFLD patients are approximately three times more likely to have a personality disorder compared to those without NAFLD. This association was not found in other liver diseases or common mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
  • Awareness v/s Action: NAFLD patients are aware of the importance of lifestyle modifications, such as diet and exercise, for managing their condition. However, many of them struggle to make necessary changes due to uncontrolled eating behaviours and potentially having an external locus of control (LoC), where they perceive life events as beyond their control.
  • Transplantation and Recurrence: Even after liver transplantation due to NAFLD, a significant portion of patients (two-fifths) showed signs of disease recurrence within five years. This highlights the need for effective management of lifestyle changes both before and after transplantation.
  • Call for Screening and Treatment: The study suggests that NAFLD patients should be screened for personality disorders. If these mental health disorders are identified, they should be treated before patients attempt to control their diet and exercise. This approach may improve the effectiveness of treatment and prevent disease recurrence.
  • Locus of Control: The study also highlights the role of locus of control in patient attitudes towards weight loss. Patients with a high internal locus of control, who believe they have control over their life events, are more likely to succeed in losing weight. NAFLD patients, similar to individuals with substance abuse disorders, may have an increased external locus of control, making it challenging for them to make and maintain necessary lifestyle changes.
  • Global Health Problem: NAFLD is a metabolic disorder characterized by the presence of lipid droplets in the liver without excessive alcohol consumption. It is a global health problem, with obesity and insulin resistance being the main risk factors. Rising rates of obesity-related diseases make NAFLD a significant public health challenge.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)


  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a condition characterized by the accumulation of fat in the liver. It is typically associated with overweight or obese individuals and can progress to more serious liver damage if not managed properly.

Stages of NAFLD

Simple Fatty Liver (Steatosis): This is the initial stage, characterized by the buildup of fat in liver cells. It is usually harmless and often goes unnoticed.

Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH): NASH is a more severe form of NAFLD where the liver becomes inflamed. This stage is more concerning as it can lead to liver damage.

Fibrosis: Persistent inflammation in NASH can lead to the formation of scar tissue around the liver and nearby blood vessels. However, the liver can still function normally at this stage.

Cirrhosis: Cirrhosis is the most advanced stage of NAFLD, resulting from years of inflammation. The liver becomes scarred, shrinks, and loses its function. Cirrhosis can lead to liver failure and an increased risk of liver cancer.

Risk Factors

Obesity or being overweight, especially with excess abdominal fat (an "apple-like" body shape).

Type 2 diabetes.

Insulin resistance or conditions affecting insulin function.

Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).

High blood pressure.

High cholesterol levels.

Metabolic syndrome (a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity).

Age over 50.


Symptoms of NAFLD

In the early stages, NAFLD often does not produce noticeable symptoms.

Advanced stages (NASH, fibrosis, cirrhosis) may lead to symptoms such as:

A dull or aching pain in the upper right abdomen (over the lower right side of the ribs).

Extreme fatigue.

Unexplained weight loss.


Cirrhosis can cause more severe symptoms, including Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), Itchy skin, and Swelling in the legs, ankles, feet, or abdomen (edema).

Diagnosis of NAFLD

NAFLD is often initially detected through a liver function test that reveals abnormal liver enzyme levels.

Additional diagnostic tools may include:

Abdominal ultrasound: Uses sound waves to create images of the liver, helping to visualize fat buildup.

Special blood tests: These may be used to assess liver function and inflammation.

Fibroscan: A non-invasive imaging technique to evaluate liver stiffness, indicating fibrosis.

Liver biopsy: In some cases, a small sample of liver tissue is taken and analyzed in a laboratory.

Treatment and Management

Lifestyle modifications are the cornerstone of NAFLD management.

Weight management: Achieving a healthy BMI (18.5 to 24.9) through gradual weight loss can reduce liver fat.

Diet: Adopting a balanced diet high in fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains while minimizing fats, sugar, and salt is recommended.

Regular exercise: Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.

Smoking cessation: Quitting smoking can reduce the risk of complications.

Alcohol: Reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption is advisable, even though NAFLD is not caused by alcohol.

Medications and Liver Transplant

There is no specific medication to treat NAFLD itself, but medications may be prescribed to manage associated conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, or obesity.

In severe cases of cirrhosis, a liver transplant may be necessary when the liver fails to function adequately. Transplants can come from deceased or living donors.


  • NAFLD is a progressive liver condition characterized by the buildup of fat in the liver. Early diagnosis and lifestyle modifications, including weight loss, dietary changes, and regular exercise, play a crucial role in managing and preventing the progression of NAFLD. Monitoring and managing associated conditions and risk factors are also essential for overall health and liver function.


Q. What lifestyle modifications and medical interventions show promise in preventing and treating lifestyle diseases like diabetes and heart disease, and what role does personalized medicine play in tailoring these treatments to individuals?